First Results of Nationwide Screening Program Reveal High Rates of Kidney Disease but Low Level of Awareness Among Those at Risk

New York, NY
October 28, 2003

One-half of people with at least one risk factor for kidney disease have the condition--yet only a tiny fraction know it, according to a new report published in the November issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official publication of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF).

"Among participants in our nationwide screening program for kidney disease, only three percent said they had the condition," says Brian Pereira, MD, president of the National Kidney Foundation. "However, tests revealed that, in fact, fifty percent showed signs of kidney disease or damage to the kidneys, and many other participants were at risk--which says that doctors need to do a better job of identifying people at risk of the condition to catch it earlier, when treatment can be most effective."

The report contains the first published findings from the NKF Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP), designed to identify people at risk of kidney disease and those who are in the early stages of the disease, when treatment has a chance of slowing, stopping or reversing its progression. The findings are based on blood and urine tests of more than 11,000 people, all of whom had at least one of the two leading causes of kidney disease -- diabetes or high blood pressure -- or a family history of kidney disease or either risk factor.

Approximately one-quarter of participants said they had diabetes, and up to fifty percent had high blood pressure. One in six said they had both conditions.

More than three-quarters of participants were overweight or obese, a known risk factor for high blood pressure, diabetes, and for kidney disease itself. Indeed, compared to the general population, KEEP participants were almost twice as likely to be obese, and three times more likely to be severely obese.

Many people with kidney problems also develop anemia, in which their blood contains too few oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Relative to the general population, KEEP participants were more likely to be anemic--particularly those with diabetes and stage 3 kidney disease, whose risk of anemia (hemoglobin less than 11 g/dl) increased three-fold. Black participants were more likely to be anemic than whites, and women had a far greater degree of anemia than men.

"Recent research suggests that anemia can contribute to heart failure--a complication of advanced kidney disease--as well as accelerate losses in kidney function, indicating that doctors should make extra efforts to diagnose and treat anemia in people at risk of kidney problems," says Mark A. Klausner, MD, Vice President Internal Medicine, Clinical Affairs, Ortho Biotech Products LP, primary sponsor of the KEEP program.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 20 million Americans - one in nine adults - have chronic kidney disease. KEEP is a free kidney health screening program, presented by the NKF in cities across the U.S. The National Kidney Foundation is a major health organization seeking to prevent kidney and urologic diseases, improve the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increase the availability of organs for transplantation.

Primary sponsor of KEEP is Ortho Biotech Products LP. Additional sponsors include: Bayer Diagnostics, Lifescan Inc., Satellite Healthcare, Satellite Laboratory Services and Ocean Spray Cranberries.

Read the Executive summary from AJKD (PDF)